Oregon, Photography, Thoughts and Lessons Learned

Just Living – Golden Hour on the Farm

“I am tired.”

If you’ve spoken to me at all in the last two months, my bet is that this was said early on in the conversation. Usually I try to stay away from default answers like “I’m tired” or “I’m busy” when I’m catching up with someone, because the reality is we are all busy and tired, and we all measure those differently. Personally, I think we are all capable of being better conversationalists.

But the truth is in this case, when I finally made it home to Oregon for my vacation at home with my family, this was all I could muster up when my Grampy asked how my work meeting in Seattle, (that I had just traveled from) went.

My body was tired, my brain was tired and I’d even say my soul was tired.

Both professionally and personally, this season of life over of the past six months or so has really pushed me. Its tested me and even broke me a couple of times. And that’s all OK. These seasons come and go, and I think it’s important to keep that in mind. I believe that sometimes you just have to put your head down and work, and do what you have to do to get by.

That first evening when I got home I immediately jumped on my laptop to knock out a few things related to the meeting I had just traveled from. But the sun was starting to set and the scene I could see through my parent’s big kitchen window could not be ignored.

So I grabbed my camera and headed out to sit in the yard with our old family dog Jack and just paused for a bit.

It’s amazing how little things like that can refocus things for you.

It’s a beautiful world sometimes I don’t see so clear
Some days you just breath in
Just try to break even
Sometimes your heart’s poundin’ out of your chest
Sometimes it’s just beatin’
Some days you just forget
What all you’ve been given
Some days you just get back
And some days you’re just alive
Some days you’re livin’
Some days you’re livin’

Life Notes

I Joined the Pure Barre 100 Club

Last week I joined the Pure Barre 100 Club!

(Which means I’ve taken 100 classes!)

When I first tried out Pure Barre back in December it was honestly only because I forced myself to. I was really sad and overwhelmed, and had found myself at my lowest point fitness-wise, AGAIN. The Arlington Pure Barre studio is only two blocks from my office, so I had walked by it hundreds of times before. I had other people tell me before that because of my dance background, that it might be something I’d be interested in, so without dwelling on it too much I just walked in and signed up.

I am so, so happy that I did.

At first I liked it because it gave me something regular in my schedule that I could control and that was in a positive environment. If you miss a class or don’t drop a class enough hours in advance you get charged a fee, and that was just enough to hold me accountable. But as time went on and I kept forcing myself to go, I eventually fell in love with it.

The instructors and staff are always welcoming and encouraging – and that really does make a impact. The pace of the class moves along quickly and fluidly so I’ve never felt uncomfortable. I know that if I am having to focus so much, then others probably are too. Now I might be a bit biased because there are elements of Pure Barre that do align with dance training, and since I grew up dancing (tap, jazz and a teeny tiny bit of ballet), it certainly helped build my confidence that I picked things up quickly. But regardless, I also love Pure Barre because it is easy to make it your own. There are ways to both modify moves and push yourself.

Signing the 100 Club barre

I like that it is low impact and great for injury recovery. I played sports (including dance) growing up, so I have a knee that hates too much impact and ankles that roll on command. Last fall, I sprained an ankle, and unlike before, I did not bounce back quickly like all the times before (probably the first time that I’ve ever felt “old” lol). And after I moved to DC three years ago and because a regular pedestrian, I single-handedly gave myself plantar fasciitis by walking everywhere in poor shoes. (My ultimate advice… invest in shoes that are cute AND supportive). I definitely notice a difference in my strength overall, but most all in these areas that need a bit more help.

Back in March, I completed the March Madness Challenge (taking 20 classes in the month) and was pretty pumped that I earned this coffee mug!

Pure Barre really has brought me back to a place where I feel good and want to tackle other exercise again (like cardio) because I am stronger, more flexible and motivated. But most of all, this studio and structure has strengthened my mental game. Previously, I almost always worked through my lunch hour and honestly really didn’t mind it. But now I commit almost every lunch hour to class, and I think the balance and mental break everyday has helped sharpen my focus back at work.

On a more personal note, I said above that back in December when I first started, I was not feeling so great. I’m not saying that taking a fitness class everyday over lunch just solves all of the world’s problems, but a welcoming and encouraging environment that helps you do something positive for yourself does make a huge difference. I’m not sure that I can express enough gratitude for the women at Pure Barre Arlington that have helped give me that.

I thought about trying to explain what exactly Pure Barre is, but they have an awesome intro video that does a much better job than I can!

I was really pumped to reach the 100 club mark and I am looking forward to joining 250 club next!

Thoughts and Lessons Learned

Roses and Thorns

I’ve been a little MIA lately, but that’s just the season I am in. I have a huge project going on at work and especially now that we are finally having a spring, that all sort of zaps any desire I have to be in front a screen of any kind outside of working hours.

But to kick off the week I wanted to share a simple habit I’ve made since the new year that has really stuck with me.

I’ll be first to admit that my attitude over the past couple of months hasn’t been all that great. Going through a breakup right before Christmas really knocked me down… much harder, and for much longer than I would have expected. But life does have to go on, and with as busy I always tend to keep myself, I most struggled with balancing the hard stuff with good and positive things going on at the same time. I know that is not an uncommon thing for people to feel for a lot of different reasons, but this time for me, it just has seemed so much more inflated. I hope that makes sense.

Anyway, a blogger that I follow, Design Darling, does a weekly post about her “Rose and Thorn.” She shares something that she struggled with that week or that just plain sucked, and then follows it with something positive or happy. I always enjoy those kind of simple posts and appreciate when people recognize the whole spectrum of life, and not just the highlight reel.

So, I decided to take a page out of her playbook. In my planner, there is a notes block section for every week. My personal rule is that I have to bullet point a minimum of three “Roses” for the week, and then I can write down as many things as I want or need to for my “Thorns.” Sometimes this is really hard, and my roses are very simple or even more matter of fact. But other times, I have really surprised myself and my thorns were almost not even worth acknowledging.

I’m not saying that this new habit really fixes anything or magically makes the sun shine everyday. But it’s nice knowing that this is just for me and no one is going to read it, so I can be just plain honest with myself. It creates a simple space that acknowledges the good, the bad and everything in between, and I think its remember important (and healthy) to allow ourselves to create that space for both.

After a few months of doing this, I think its become an easy, healthy habit that I plan on keeping up with.

Have a wonderful week friends!

Thoughts and Lessons Learned

Emotional Courage

Today’s post is going to be a bit more real life. I’ve mentioned a few times recently that I’ve been struggling with having a positive attitude, but if I am completely honest, it is a bit more than that. I went through a break up right before Christmas and for while I’ve just been flat out struggling. At the end of the day, I know that I have a lot to be happy about and thankful for, but that just has not been enough to keep my mood up lately.

A few weeks ago I saw this Ted Talk, “The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage” by psychologist Susan David, that really spoke to me in a way that I needed. She describes her life work as “emotional agility,” and her talk is summarized as “sharing how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility.”

Link to video HERE.

I’ve always been a realist and don’t usually shy away too much from my emotions, but this experience has been a bit different than I’ve ever had before. There have been so many times when someone would ask if I was OK, and I felt compelled to brush it off, and say yes, when I really, truly wasn’t. I felt myself judging or criticizing myself over getting upset over what I deemed as silly things or at really inopportune times.

In her talk, David says, “I was praised for being strong. I was the master of being OK.

She then said that in a study she conducted, she determined that “one-third of us either judge ourselves for having ‘bad emotions,’ like sadness, anger or even grief — or actively push away these emotions… Normal natural emotions are now seen as good or bad, and being positive has become a new form of moral correctness.”

Umm WOW. How many of us take pride in mastering these habits? I do believe in the power of being positive, counting your blessings and so on and so forth, but I don’t know that I’ve ever truly looked at it this way. I just knew deep down this time around that I was going to need some time to feel these ‘bad emotions’ that she describes and didn’t want to feel like there was pressure to be OK anytime soon.

David also said that people who say ‘I just want this feeling to go away,’ have dead people’s goals. And I laughed quite a bit, because its so bluntly true. My favorite quote came shortly after this when she said…

“Tough emotions are part of our contract with life. You don’t get to have a meaningful career or raise a family, or leave the world a better place without stress and discomfort. Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”

This stuck with me the most, because it also resonated with other stages of my life. I’ve always believed and accepted that sometimes, to get to where we want to be, we have to do hard things. If I say that I don’t usually shy away from my emotions in other areas of my life and other obstacles, then why should this be treated any differently? I do not believe in or follow the line of thinking that “Everything happens for a reason,” but this, the thought that “discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life,” is one that makes sense and feels real to me.

I’m obviously not a psychologist and I’m not writing this blog post out of some need for attention. Writing is the way I work through things, and I wanted to share this Ted Talk and a few of my own thoughts because the thing that usually helps me the most is when a friend, or a stranger, says “it’s OK, I’ve been there and I get it.”

Before I saw the Ted Talk, I also got this text from a friend that fit so perfectly with the lesson and was a way of looking at things and leaning on friends that I had never thought of before.

So this is me saying to others, I’ve been there too, and I get it… AND, take your time and let yourself feel all the things that you need to. The rest of us will do the positive thinking for you until you’re ready.

Family, Love Letters

Love Letter: Golden Anniversary

I talk about my Ego grandparents, known as Grampy and Grammy, every now and then on my blog, but I don’t know if they have ever been properly introduced.

My Grampy, Dave, is a retired high school counselor, principal and boy’s basketball coach. He served in the Army, working in the psych ward in the hospital at Fort Ord, California, during the Vietnam War. He is the ultimate sports fan. He goes to baseball spring training every year, has been a Portland Trailblazers season ticket holder since 1973 and over the years has done a lot of sports radio commentary (and those are just a few of the sports related notes). He also loves Benjamin Franklin, ice cream and pushing people’s buttons.

My Grammy, Gloria (or “Go” as my Grampy calls her), is an artist and florist, and last year we celebrated the 30 year anniversary of her store, Cottage Flowers, that my mom now owns. She loves reading, coffee, painting and though my Grampy is always the one singing, she is the one with the beautiful voice.

Together they like to keep their hands busy with yard work and projects. They are extensive travelers, spending the warm months of the year mostly up at our family cabin and the rest of the year traveling all over the U.S. and the world. They have a big heart for others, going on mission trips and running a home for girls early on in their marriage.

They have 3 children and 3 grandchildren, and though I’ve shared above that they have quite the colorful life, I know that they would say that their favorite adventure is their family.

And today they are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

My relationship with my grandparents is really special. With a family business and growing up down the street from them, they were involved in Janci and I’s life in every possible way. Growing up, they helped send us to camps and activities, and were at every sports event, dance recital and county fair show. When Janci showed a real interest and talent for golf, Grampy became her main cheerleader, and it wasn’t just enough to come to my FFA events — they asked questions until they understood the contests and topics. They’ve always been good at asking questions, because for them its not enough to just be present. If something is important to their kids and grandkids, then its important and interesting to them. When I was a student at K-State, they made sure I always had season football and basketball tickets, and in return Grampy became a loyal fan so we could always discuss the game. Grammy was the one who instilled a love for reading and creativity in me, which you could really say is what partially helped sparked my interest in communications early on. When I accepted my current job and needed to make the move from Kansas to Virginia really quickly, they cut a vacation they had planned short so they could fly to Kansas to help me pack up and make the long drive. Last year, when my job took me to Thailand, they didn’t think twice about joining me afterward for an adventure. Those are just a few of the many ways they’ve have impacted and been involved in my life, and that doesn’t even begin to mention the things that the rest of my family and others would add.

They’ve spent 50 years of marriage investing in the people, dreams and things that are important them. In that time, I’m sure there have been many ups and downs, but they’ve worked hard — with humility, kindness and love — and its truly amazing to think about the family and legacy they’ve built because of that. So here’s my little love letter to them.

IMG_4442

Dear Grampy and Grammy,

I often have to remind myself that not everyone has grandparents like you. Not everyone gets to share every aspect of their life with their grandparents and share the kind of memories we do.  Not everyone gets the extra cheerleaders and the second set of “cool” parents. And because of that, not everyone gets to talk like we do, and share and learn together like we do.

You’ve never been the stereotypical sweet elderly grandparents and that’s OK. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but at this point, I can’t imagine it any differently. I’ve gotten used to explaining to others that my grandparents are the definition of being “young at heart” and that at the end of the day, they are always the ones with more energy left then the rest of us.

Because of you, Janci and I had two extra constant voices telling us we could go anywhere and be anything that we wanted to be. Because of Grampy, I yell shamelessly loud at sporting events and know that my shoes laces should never come untied. Because of him, I am also interested in the world happening around me, and I know the importance of showing up and investing in it. Because of Grammy, I have seen what it means to be independent and chase a dream, when to be strong and when to have a gentler touch. Because of her, I also have an eye for creativity and a love for a good story.

Because of the two of you, I know there is a time to put your head down and work hard, and there is a time to relax and enjoy the fresh mountain air. Because of you, I know that one should always make room for laughter and for grace. And because of you, I know that family is the most important thing we have.

I will never tire of going on adventures together, never tire at laughing at how you poke at each other and never tire of learning how to live well and love others from you.

50 years is truly something to celebrate, and I am so proud to be your granddaughter. Anyone who has ever had the privilege of knowing you, knows how lucky Janci, Sawyer and I are.

I love you two so much and can’t wait for our next adventure together. Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary

Love,
Mandy

Note: The pictures make a huge jump from some old fun ones that they were tagged in on Facebook, to what is in my own files. 🙂

Life Notes

Day in the Life – February 14, 2018

With social media it is really easy to get caught up in people’s “life highlight reels” and whether its subconscious or not, we make comparisons. I think there are a lot of great things about social media  (hello, its a part of my job), but that pitfall is not one of them. When it comes to bloggers, I usually follow new ones I’ve found for a little while, but if I don’t relate to them or just get too much of the highlight reel, instead of everyday real life, then I tend to let them drop off my list of those I follow.

“Day in the Life” posts from other bloggers are always some of the most simple posts they do, but they are always interesting to me. It’s fun to get a peek into how someone else, who has a different job, location and life circumstances does their everyday life. I finally decided to do one myself because also liked the idea that it captures my life right in the moment and season of life that I’m in. Someday I might look back and think, wow, how different things were then.

In order for it to be somewhat spontaneous, at the beginning of February I decided that I wanted to do a day that was mid-month and then I asked one of my friends, without giving her the context, to pick a number from a range of dates. I laughed that she ended up selecting Valentine’s Day, but I decided to stick to it, so here we go!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

That’s my sweet baby cousin Sawyer June by the way 🙂

My alarm went off at 5:20 am. In all honesty, this was a bit early for me. Most mornings I usually wake up between 6 and 6:30, but this particular morning I had signed up for a 7 am Pure Barre class and I had to account for a 30 minute walk. The barre studio is two blocks from my office, which is just about a mile from my apartment. I walk most days because I don’t have a permanent parking spot at the office, so days that I drive mean that someone that is a regular driver is away from the office that day, or when its super cold or bad weather I can use the visitors spot from time to time.

Anyway, when I first wake up, I always quickly check my work email on my phone to see if any emails from our overseas offices came in overnight and breeze through a few news headlines. After I pried myself out of bed, the rest of my early morning consisted of packing my outfit for the day, makeup bag and lunch in my backpack. (I switch between a backpack and a large purse, based on my mode of getting to work and what I need that day.)

I always need something small to eat before I workout, especially if it is in the morning so I grabbed a cereal bar and also downed a small can of cold brew coffee mixed with a little almond milk to take my vitamins. The cold brew is my favorite go-to if I don’t have time to brew hot coffee for my to to-go cup, or days like today, where it made less sense to bring it and then have it sit while I was in class.

I left my apartment about 6:20 or so and arrived at 6:42, which was great because that meant when the class before me got out at 6:50, I was first into the studio and got to snag my favorite spot. Pure Barre is something new I started right before Christmas and I am really loving it so far!

Class lasted 50 minutes. So at 7:50 I was out the door and immediately walked right around the corner to Peet’s Coffee. Like I said before, most days I make coffee at home, so I try to stick to making Peet’s a treat maybe 3 to 5 times a month. So I got my usual small dirty chai latte and also grabbed a bowl of apple spice overnight oats.

My office building has a small locker room which is SO convenient. I keep a towel, small body wash, deodorant, dry shampoo and body spray in my locker. It took me about 30 minutes to rinse off, dress and put on my makeup. My hair is naturally curly and doesn’t get very oily, so I only wash my hair every 3 to 4 days, even when I’ve straightened it, like I had done earlier in the week. So with a little dry shampoo and some bobby pins I was good to go.

I walked into my office at 8:39. We are allowed to choose our arrival and leave within some guidelines, which is nice. I typically get to work between 8:30 and 8:45 and leave between 5 and 5:15. Others in the office who have longer commutes and/or kids, typically start and leave earlier.

There wasn’t really much to take unique pictures of throughout my work day. My morning was filled with planning and scheduling out some social media posts and responding to various emails (and eating my overnight oats.) The last few weeks were busy focusing primarily on our board meeting that wrapped up last Saturday, so I also had a few random tasks on my to-do list that I needed to circle around to again.

At lunch, I walked two blocks to the Walgreens to pick up a prescription and then came back to the office and ate a small plate of the leftover spaghetti that I brought with me from home. After lunch, I turned my attention to our website redesign which is set to launch in late spring or early summer. I met with two other staff members to work through the plans for the pages that require their attention and made some really good progress on a few decisions that need to be made. For the rest of the day I worked on website content and planning, snacked on a orange and wrapped up the afternoon with a catch up with my boss on a meeting he went to earlier in the day and what we need from each other for the remainder of the week. I also eventually moved from sitting to standing. I got my adjustable table top desk back in December and absolutely LOVE it!

I left the office at 5:13 and was home by 5:41. I was excited to see that I had a sweet Valentine’s card in my mailbox from my best friend Megan. I needed to be out the door again in about an hour so I relaxed on the couch to unwind and flip through my personal social media and put on an episode of NCIS on Netflix, which is the show that I am currently slowing working through. I like other types of shows, but crime serial shows are my favorite, partially because I can half watch/half do something else and still feel like I enjoyed it.

At 6:40 or so, I got ready to leave again and my friend Lance called to catch up, which was great timing because I had a 30 minute walk ahead of me again and it was a great way to fill that time.

At 7:20 I met up with my friend Carley at the Clarendon Grille, which is also really close to my office. Carley just moved here after the new year, and works for an organization that essentially does the same thing as mine does, just for other grain commodities. I am friends with one of her colleagues who connected us. Anyway, Carley is in an intramural league for cornhole (how awesome is that?!), so I tagged along for the evening to hangout, which included a dinner of a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a Yuengling. We wrapped up a little after 9 so I justified getting an Uber for a quick ride home.

Once at home, I made some decaf lemon tea, watched the rest of the NCIS episode that I had started earlier and did some work on this blog post. I also put on a face mask, which I do maybe once or twice a week, especially in the winter, when my dry skin can use all the help it can get! Around 10:30 I called it quits and headed to bed.

Nothing too exciting, but overall it was a good day!

Life Notes

Vision Board Party

I’ve never personally been really big on making New Year’s resolutions. I think goals should be made as we see a need for them and not just because we pushed an imaginary reset button. Plus, if I am being honest, January is always my least favorite month and I think we put way too much pressure on it. We come off of the holidays a bit burnt out, the weather is usually crappy (if you know me, you know how much I hate winter) and for me, the first six weeks of the year always tend to be pretty hectic work-wise. But that’s just me and how I’m wired. I don’t mean to knock anyone down who really anchors themselves to New Year’s resolutions — I think it’s great!

But coming off of a really crummy and unexpected end to 2017, my mood and attitude have been really down. A few weeks ago, I was out in the evening with some friends and they all were sharing what their resolutions were. When it got to me, I fairly bluntly said, “I don’t have any. I’m just in survival mode and doing the day-by-day thing.” I know my attitude is something that I am responsible for working on, but I also accept that this phase is just something that will eventually get better with time.

With all of that said, I was invited to a “Vision Board Making” Party this weekend and really had a great time!

Jackie did her’s on a cork board. I wish I had thought of that!

My friend Brenda from my young adults small group invited a group of women over and really did a great job at creating a positive environment. We had yummy food, a relaxing scent in her diffuser, an upbeat music playlist, the Grammy’s on in the background and all the magazines we could ever need to pick through.

Some of the women had specific focus words or goals that they planned their vision boards around, and it was fun and motivating to hear a little bit about how each one is planning to own their 2018. I decided to just focus on words and things that were positive and just made me smile (or laugh in one specific case). In middle school and high school I used to cover my binders like this, so I really enjoyed the chance to relax with some girl chat and feed my creative side for an evening.

In the last week or so, I did finally jot down I few basic things that I really want to focus on in the next few months.

  • I haven’t been a regular reader since before college and its something I really miss. I’d like to try to read at least two books a month. My childhood self is cringing right now, but hey, baby steps.
  • My blog is still just a hobby, and it probably always will be only that, but it does make me really happy so I am shooting for at least one post a week, but more striving toward 2 to 3.
  • Balancing healthy eating and consistent exercise is probably permanently on my list, and that’s ok. I also want to try to focus on finding things that just make me feel good overall and make bettering these habits less of a chore.
  • I want to read or seek out resources to learn more about personal finance. I have a good budgeting and saving system in place, but I want to learn more about long term planning.
  • After being here for almost 3 years, there are still a few DC-area things that I haven’t crossed off my bucket list! And I want to explore at least one new-to-me East Coast city.
  • I have a few work/career related goals and plans toward being a better professional and communicator

There are a few other things on my mind lately, but I’ll keep those to myself for now. I’ve always believed in goal setting, but not just as set hard line of accomplishments to check off. I see a lot of goals as guidelines toward being your best self, whatever that might be during that season of life.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2018 and good luck on those goals and resolutions!